Info-Picketing Starbucks Stores for Valentine’s Day / by CP Maine Staff

Today, Starbucks workers and their allies were out in front of over one hundred stores across the nation, explaining to customers that union-busting not only hurts workers, but customers too.

Biddeford Maine Starbucks |

They informed customers about the impact of the company’s reduction of labor hours on customer service and working conditions. This, they explained, was the reason for the longer wait times customers are experiencing. They asked customers for their support, requesting that they sign the “No Contract, No Coffee Pledge.”

Customers received flyers that stated, “Starbucks thinks there are too many workers making your order, so they are cutting labor and you are paying the price. Same cost to you, but double the wait times, and less time connecting with our community.”

Handing out flyers outside the Starbucks store on Congress Street in Portland, Maine, Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) supporters said that their interactions with customers and other passersby were overwhelmingly positive.

Valentine’s Day may be all about “sharing the love,” but today Starbucks workers and allies decided to share with the people “the love they lack from the company whose profits are soaring.”

“Starbucks is cutting labor hours despite record breaking profits year after year,” according to a recent SBWU statement, “[t]his causes workers to be financially stressed and overworked, and it causes customers to experience significantly longer wait times. We’re asking customers to stand with the over 7,000 baristas who have joined Starbucks Workers United as we fight this retaliation.”

The SBWU is making good on its promise to increase its efforts to enlist the company’s customers as allies in its nationwide organizing drive.

The SBWU is asking supporters to sign this pledge:

Starbucks Workers United

Incoming House Republican rulers plan barrage of anti-worker laws, sham probes / by Mark Gruenberg

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a UNITE union protest outside the Senate office buildings in support of Senate cafeteria workers employed by Restaurant Associates on July 20, 2022. With anti-labor Republicans now set to take over a key House committee, Sanders will have to act as the Senate firewall against their efforts. | Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP

WASHINGTON—The “anti-PRO Act.” Slow-walking union recognition elections. No card check. Comp time instead of overtime. Convoluted requirements bosses can impose on workers seeking paid family and medical leave. And partisan investigations, especially of Biden-named NLRB members Gwynne Wilcox and David Prouty, coming out of our ears.

Welcome to the forecast, leaked from the self-proclaimed leading “union avoidance” law firm, a.k.a. union-buster, Littler Mendelson, plus other sources, of what the House Republican-run Education and Labor—whoops, Education and the Workforce—Committee will try to impose on workers and their allies in the upcoming 118th Congress.

There is one saving factor against this right-wing corporate-backed war against unions and workers. Senate control stays in Democratic hands, which means the nasty schemes the House panel dreams up will likely find a graveyard over on the other side of Capitol Hill.

And Sen. Bernie Sanders will probably be running that cemetery for the Republican brainstorms.

The Vermont independent, workers’ most-longtime and reliable ally in Congress, is in line to become the new chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, succeeding Washington State Democrat Patty Murray. It handles all labor legislation.

That’s because Murray, who now chairs the HELP Committee and the Senate Appropriations subcommittee which helps actually dole out Labor Department and other education and labor-oriented money, is slated to chair the full Appropriations Committee, which deals with all discretionary federal spending, defense and domestic.

Once the Republicans eliminate “labor” from the House panel’s name, again, who will send Sanders the bills to bury is up in the air. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., ran the committee the last time her party controlled the House. She wants to do so again. Foxx is so anti-union she once, to North Carolina media, questioned whether unions should legally be allowed to exist.

But Foxx has reached her party’s limit of six years in such top jobs, and needs a waiver to reclaim it. If there’s no waiver, the chief contender is Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind. In voting records, there’s no difference between Foxx (AFL-CIO 2021 score zero, lifetime 6%) and Banks (2021 zero, lifetime 5%).

That still leaves the question of what the ruling Republicans on the extremely partisan panel will try to push through, which is where the Littler Mendelson leak comes in.

The top measure they listed will be what could be called the anti-PRO Act. Think of anything workers and their allies proposed in the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which the House passed twice but which fell victim to Senate Republican filibuster threats.

Then, in his so-called Employee Rights Act, Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., flips those ideas around. Even Littler Mendelson chortlingly calls Allen’s bill “the antithesis of the PRO Act.”

“Among other things, it would add increased protection for secret ballot elections and extend such protections to workers deciding whether a union will go on strike,” the union-buster’s analysts write. It also includes a provision banning salting.

Allen’s measure would “require union recertification elections when union membership drops below 50%”—a scheme the Iowa legislature imposed on workers several years ago. It backfired there: AFSCME and the Teamsters won more than 90% of the recertification votes.

Allen would also “protect employee privacy,” corporate-speak for another boss idea: Banning firms from giving any contact information about workers to the union that qualifies for a recognition election. He also legalizes so-called “merit pay” and exempts Native American tribes, and their enterprises, from federal labor law.

And his legislation would “provide protection from political spending by requiring workers to ‘opt in’ to have any portion of their paycheck used by unions to support political candidates or parties.” Never mind that workers’ political contributions are voluntary, unlike those of middle managers. CEOs coerce them to support anti-worker politicians—or else.

Last but not least, Allen would “codify the traditional joint employer ‘direct, immediate control’” standard. That Republican rule leaves workers, especially franchise workers—think McDonald’s—caught trying to figure out who to bargain with, and who actually broke labor law: Their immediate boss or the corporate headquarters.

“It’s time to protect…the union election process from being abused by union bosses. It also provides all employees, independent contractors, and new gig economy workers the necessary protections so they can focus solely on their jobs,” says Allen.

The anti-PRO Act isn’t the only piece of anti-worker legislation pending on the Republican agenda, the union-buster firm says. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., would legalize—and extend nationally—a Republican Trump regime pilot project “which allows employers to self-report federal minimum wage and overtime violations as an alternative to litigation. Employers may apply to the program by submitting information from a self-audit that includes calculations of any unpaid minimum or overtime wages.”

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division would have to verify the bosses’ figures. If it OKs the deal, DOL would “supervise a settlement with affected employees that provides payment of any unpaid wages.” And workers who agree to the settlement couldn’t sue later if the figures were proved wrong.

But with the Republican-run House committee passing anti-worker and anti-union bills and Sanders burying them—opposite of what occurred in this Congress—labor and the Biden administration will turn to regulations to help workers. Even Littler Mendelson recognized that.

So did the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department in its recent board meeting. Its first-look agenda in 2023 has a heavy emphasis on federal rules.

“The Biden administration is delivering on its promise to invest in infrastructure, create good middle-

class jobs, and put workers first,” said TTD President Greg Regan. “Our federation will continue to work with this administration and the new Congress to advance policies that improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for the dedicated workers who build, operate, and maintain our critical transportation and infrastructure systems.”

The federation’s workers-first agenda includes federal regulatory reforms to:

  • “Prevent recipients of federal passenger rail grants from displacing workers.
  • “Fully restore rail workers’ sickness and unemployment insurance benefits.
  • “Attach ‘Made in America’ requirements to all federal infrastructure grants.” That’s in addition to provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act requiring Davis-Bacon wages and Project Labor Agreements on such grants.
  • “Address ongoing air traffic control and technical operations staffing challenges.
  • “Reform the joint venture approval process for airlines.” Doing so would prevent “joint venture” arrangements, such as codesharing, which both hurt passengers financially and cost U.S. workers jobs.
  • “Establish a domestic prevailing wage for maritime workers on offshore wind projects.” That’s already in place in the first project, negotiated between a Danish firm and the Biden administration’s Commerce Department. It’s supposed to be a model for others.

The union leaders also want DOL to prevent U.S. airlines from further abusing visa worker programs to hire non-U.S. pilots, they told Biden Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, a Laborers Union member, who met with them.

“As the United States undergoes the largest-ever federal investment in transportation and infrastructure workers, these reforms will strengthen domestic manufacturing, alleviate systemic staffing issues that affect commercial flights, and establish a living wage for maritime workers on offshore wind projects as clean energy opportunities expand. These reforms will also protect wages and benefits for aviation and rail workers and ensure that the federal government has no role in outsourcing U.S. jobs or displacing U.S. workers,” TTD stated.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

People’s World, November 22, 2022,

Union wins at Staten Island Amazon, too close to call in Alabama / by Mark Gruenberg

Amazon Labor Union organizers are celebrating first-ever Amazon warehouse union election victory. Photo: Luis Feliz Leon

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Workers at the Staten Island Amazon warehouse scored a historic victory today by winning their vote to unionize with the independent Amazon Labor Union.

Meanwhile, the vote at the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse is too close to call because of the large number of challenged ballots.

The NLRB Brooklyn office covers elections at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island. There, the independent Amazon Labor Union aimed to win among approximately 5,000 workers. ALU tweets showed the union’s margin steadily grew through the afternoon of March 31. The NLRB also has ordered a vote for or against ALU at another Staten Island warehouse, date to be set.

The final numbers: yes (for union) 2654, no 2131, challenged 67, eligible voters 8325.

The Amazon elections are important for workers for a variety of reasons. Both unions aimed to overcome rampant hostility and expensive union-busting tactics by Amazon. Jeff Bezos, one of the nation’s three richest people, created the rapidly growing and highly exploitative retail warehouser, distributor, and monster. It employs 1.1 million workers.

RWDSU’s try, its second in Bessemer, also symbolizes organized labor’s attempt to break through government and corporate hate in the nastily anti-union South. It shows, too, the weakness of U.S. labor law, which workers are campaigning in Congress to strengthen.

The NLRB ordered the Bessemer rerun, which occurred a year after rampant company labor law-breaking skewed the first vote and made a fair decision impossible. The board ordered Amazon not to interfere with RWDSU’s second organizing drive.

But NLRB didn’t ban a big law-breaking tactic the firm used in Bessemer. Amazon again placed a mailbox for ballots in the warehouse parking lot. But it had to move the mailbox away from the main entrance. The first time, its presence at the front door, under an Amazon logo and company cameras, gave workers the impression that Amazon, not the NLRB, ran the vote.

And the NLRB can’t ban Amazon from hiring union-busters, which it did in both plants.

In Bessemer, Amazon also tried replacement workers, especially due to the 150% worker turnover. Appelbaum noted that between the time the NLRB set the rerun date and the actual vote, hundreds of workers quit. “They voted with their feet” against corporate exploitation, he said.

One “replacement” who spoke, Braxton Wright, is one of 1,100 locked-out United Mine Workers from Alabama’s nearby Warrior Met coal mine. “I saw what they go through” at Bessemer, he said. “The union-busters avoided me like the plague.”

Conditions changed in Bessemer the second time around. Worker-organizer Jennifer Bates said in-plant “captive audience” meetings this time saw Bessemer workers don RWDSU t-shirts, hats, and buttons and bluntly challenge Amazon’s bosses and its union-busters.

“I’ve been in those meetings. They’re designed to manipulate and intimidate” the workers, she added. “We’re going to continue to fight.”

Amazon Labor Union’s campaign to win a majority of votes at JFK8 on Staten Island is notable for another reason. ALU is an independent union from the grass-roots up and the workers there are younger. Young workers aged 16-24 are the least-unionized age cohort of the labor force, Labor Department data shows.

And by not affiliating with an international union, ALU’s team could maneuver inside the warehouse for weeks before officially unveiling their organizing drive.

Appelbaum cited other key differences between the two campaigns, besides ALU’s independence. “I’m absolutely thrilled” by ALU’s lead in the Staten Island count, he said. “And I have to give a lot of credit to ALU President Chris Smalls.”

Two other differences helped ALU, Appelbaum added. One is geography: “New York City is a union town, and…Alabama is a right-to-work state” and union-hostile. The other is the difference between mail-in balloting and in-person voting.

Pandemic played a part too

The coronavirus pandemic played a part, too, he noted. In the first campaign, in 2020 and early 2021, the virus’s lockdowns prevented RWDSU organizers from going door-to-door to talk with workers one-on-one and field their questions. This time, with the pandemic receding and his organizers—and many workers—vaccinated, they could.

RWDSU also benefited, Appelbaum said, from vocal and actual support, via organizers and members, from other unions nationwide. “They realize Amazon can’t become the model” for the future of work in the U.S., he explained. So they came down to door-knock, too.

Younger workers, like those in ALU, are also the moving force behind recent organizing drives in low-paying industries, not just Amazon. They grabbed the reins, later with Workers United aid, in organizing another retail monster, Starbucks, store by store, and eye others.

And unlike established unions—including RWDSU, a semi-independent United Food and Commercial Workers sector—the Amazon Labor Union stays out of politics, shunning endorsements and ties, even in heavily unionized New York City.

The Starbucks workers, also from the grassroots, have won five out of six recognition elections at stores in Buffalo, N.Y., another in Boston, and one in Mesa, Ariz., so far. Now they’re unionizing in Portland, Ore., and in Memphis, Tenn.

Besides hiring union-busters in Bessemer, Amazon enlisted prominent pro-Democratic pollster GSG to create anti-union videos and flyers for Staten Island. That may cost it business among Dem candidates. GSG operatives attended mandatory “captive audience” meetings in Staten Island. There, too, company honchos harangued the workers and spread disinformation about the grass-roots union—and hit opposition from vocal and unafraid workers.

And on March 7, Amazon had police arrest Amazon Labor Union President Christian Smalls and two other organizers who were delivering chicken and pasta lunches to workers inside JFK8. They charged the three with trespassing. Amazon illegally fired Smalls in 2020 for leading a lunchtime walkout of JFK8 workers over lax precautions against the coronavirus.

Company labor law-breaking isn’t the only problem the Amazon Bessemer workers face. On March 25, RWDSU reported what workers first thought was a fire on the third floor of the four-story warehouse, which is the size of five football fields. But it was a malfunctioning compressor, spraying vaporized oil into an air vent and clouding the floor.

At 1:30 pm, the third floor’s workers were ordered to clock out and evacuate, robbing them of paid hours, RWDSU said. The workers on the other floors weren’t told about the threat at all, even after the vapor cloud spread to the first floor three hours later.

They learned of the hazard by talking, worker to worker, and finally leaving at 5:45 p.m. The cloud was still hovering in the Bessemer warehouse when the evening shift arrived at 7 p.m. They weren’t told either. Amazon workers later notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the hazard.

“At first, I thought my glasses were just smudged, but then the air got thicker, and my co-worker said he thought it was smoke and we should leave,” worker Isaiah Thomas told RWDSU. “Everyone was very confused, and the lack of information made us feel very unsafe.

“I was shocked why they would have the rest of us keep working, and why there was no notification or alarm sounded for all those hours. I don’t know what I was breathing in for that long, and I don’t know if it’s still in the air at work today either. I feel very unsafe and I wish management would treat us like humans and care about our safety in a real way.”

“Amazon deliberately put the health of their Bessemer, Ala., workers at risk! Their conduct is unacceptable!” RWDSU’s Appelbaum tweeted.

“Why is my health less important than a package getting shipped? Yesterday (March 25) was the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire” which killed more than 140 immigrant woman workers at a lower Manhattan sweatshop in 1911, Thomas added. “In 2022 workers shouldn’t have to fear dying in a fire at work.”

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

People’s World, April 1, 2022,